In “Alice in Wonderland,” director Tim Burton takes Lewis Carroll’s time-honored tale and converts it into a fantastical, eye-popping 3-D joy ride for the attention-deficit “Avatar” loving generation.
The most notable thing about “Alice” is that visual stimulation never stops. First, we meet a wayward, unhappy Alice (Mia Wasikowska) mourning her father’s death on the day that she receives a very public proposal from a ginger lord with digestion problems. Burton doesn’t miss a detail of the prim English countryside or its snobby, corset-wearing inhabitants.
When Alice uncomfortably edges away from the waiting crowd, a rabbit leads her to a large hole, which, of course, she falls into. This scene is 3-D at its best, with Alice swishing past books and chandeliers and bouncing on top of beds.
Starring:Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Michael Sheen, Stephen Fry, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter
Runtime:1 hr 49 min
Fans of the cartoon movie will be confused with what follows. There is an unexpected implementation of plot, and while favorite scenes such as Alice shrinking and growing are left in, the scene where she cries herself a river is left out. Instead of following Alice on a disjointed acid trip of a journey, we soon find out, through the vehicles of the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen), the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), Dormouse (Barbara Windsor), and Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum (Matt Lucas) that they are looking for an Alice who has visited before to come and release them from the dominion of the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter). There is a bit of dissension about whether this Alice is the same Alice, and this is one of the plot points that gets tedious. Alice, of course, doesn’t remember being here before, and the only person who is convinced she was is the Mad Hatter.
Alice makes her way through Wonderland in an array of fabulous dresses (kudos to the costume designer), making friends with the Bandersnatch, fooling the Red Queen and eventually fulfilling her destiny by slaying the Jabberwocky.
Burton takes liberties with the original story and comes up with a plot that is painfully similar to The Chronicles of Narnia — a young girl stumbles into a world of kings, queens and talking animals. She then finds that she’s “chosen” and must rescue her little friends from a domineering queen and return the power to the benevolent ruler. The mystery of the story that is supposed to keep the audience guessing, whether or not this Alice is the one who will fulfill the prophecy, is at first, confusing (why wouldn‘t she be the right Alice?) and then annoying with repetition.
Wasikowska gives a seamless performance in this, her first major leading role. She is appropriately bold while conveying Alice’s youthful nature. She doesn’t lose herself in the potentially sappy storyline of “Am I just Alice or am I Alice?”
Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter is one of the more anticipated characters — right up there with Stephen Fry’s Cheshire Cat — and he doesn’t diappoint. His clownish clothes and spastic hair fit well with his fluorescent eyeliner and his overwhelming personality. Depp’s only misstep is his accent — is he British? Or Scottish? He had a lisp, but now he doesn’t. What could be attributed to his apparent “madness” just comes off as confusing and inconsistent.
Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham Carter play arch enemies — and sisters. Carter provides a great deal of comedic relief as an evil, yet pitiable, Red Queen who plays crochet with a hedgehog (as the ball), uses pigs as footrests and is wildly jealous of her well-liked predecessor and younger sister, the White Queen. Hathaway brings a quirk to her perfect, gracious character, but overacts in some scenes. For instance, one wonders if she got tennis elbow from holding her arms up like she’s waltzing 24/7.
But the movie works as a whole. It’s visual (the motion capture technology is impeccable — from Stayne’s spindly daddy long legs to the queen’s bulbous head), it’s funny (Alice has a dry sense of humor that is funnier because it’s unexpected…well now I guess I’ve ruined it for you), and it’s heartwarming. Each character is relatable and sympathetic, from the ridiculously brave dormouse to the heart-melting loyalty of Bayard, the hound. And lastly, for those who aren’t fans of 3-D, worry not. This movie isn’t filled with action scenes where things are thrown at the audience ad-nauseum. The 3-D is mostly unnoticeable and only enhances the scenes when it does anything.
Don’t miss this movie — it’s a substantial upgrade from the cartoon, and it’ll leave you wanting more.
I’m one of those folks who wanted to check out this film since I first caught word of it a year ago. Thanks for the cool review!
I feel like there’s no surprise of what to expect from this movie after reading this review and knowing the movie is similar to The Chronicles of Narnia. It’s too bad Disney couldn’t pick a better script to re-create Alice in Wonderland, such as a screenplay of The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor.
This is a great review. I was lucky enough to see an advanced showing of this movie myself, and I was amazed at how intrigued I was by the story. I usually don’t get sucked into the plot for very long, but I was completely taken in by the acting. You escape into the story, even though you pretty much know the ending.
You make some good points and really give context to the characters. That’s nice to see. Nothing worse than reading a simple synopsis of the movie.
While no film version of this story will ever be able to justify Lewis Carrolls written word, I am glad that this review did not expect that, nor lambast it for trying to do something different. A few others have only written quite negative remarks, and I applaud this review for giving both yin and yang of the film. For once, a critic that actually knows what it means to critique a film. I too, desperately await a looking glass wars movie, but I am more that proud to go see this version just as well.
Excellent review! I agree with you 100% especially about Depp. He’s an amazing actor & I am a huge fan of most all his work, but this is the first time I left the theater thinking that he had done a less than stellar job. Overall, a very entertaining movie though.
Being the biggest Johnny Depp fanatic out there and how i love to research things before hand, i agree much with this but the Mad Hatter part…Depp even said himself that Hatter is a total mood swing, you can tell by the way he looks, the color of his eyes, hes positively MAD! if hes mad, his accent shouldn’t be questioned at all. if he was some normal character then yeah, but you can’t pick on a character that isn’t supposed to be sane. and of course you will never find Johnny doing a normal Tim Burton film.
also, alice in wonderland was writen well before anything related to narnia was writen, so maybe your thoughts should be the other way around.
I’m a big fan of Johnny Depp as well. Like I said, though, I understand many people, including Depp and yourself, attribute this swishy character trait to madness. I just don’t think it worked.
And of course you’re right, Alice in Wonderland was written long before Chronicles of Narnia. But the plot you’ll see in the film is not the same as the one that Lewis Caroll wrote. As I said, Tim Burton’s version introduced a completely new plot which gave Alice a “destiny,” made her get proposed to, introduced completely new characters, made this Alice’s second visit, created a battle, and led Alice and the viewer to believe this place actually existed. So the plot points which are similar to Chronicles of Narnia (“she then finds that sheâ€™s â€œchosenâ€ and must rescue her little friends from a domineering queen and return the power to the benevolent ruler”) are all Burton and no Carroll. And I’m pretty sure Tim Burton didn’t write this version before C.S. Lewis penned The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
This movie was soooo dissapointing, I was looking forward to this ever since I heard Tim Burton was involved, expecting the already quirky characters of Wonderland to become even more developed by Burton’s unique touch, rather 40 minutes in you already know how the whole thing will play out, and it’s not because they simply recreated disney’s animated version.
It became Narnia, a good queen, a bad queen, talking animals enslaved by the bad queen, and hero who’s saviour of Wonderland is foretold. Then with addition of the special sword with which Alice must save Wonderland – c’mon cliche much?
I walked out thinking I have seen this all before, but was I drawing comparisons that were’nt as overly ovbious as i thought. So I googled Alice and Narnia, and bingo I’m not the only one. Awefully dissapointing, so so much potential, I would have preferred they recreate scene-for-scene the animated version than some Narnia/Wizard of Oz bastardisation.
I agree totally. When i first heard they were making a new ALice film i thought it was going to be the same as the animated one, just with people and new and sutff. Then i found out it follows ALice as she’s older, and returns to Wonderland and I thought it’d be really cool, however I must say i was extremely disapointed. FIrst it was very predictable, almost boring. ANd the whole time I was thinking, gosh this is awfully similar to Narnia. and even a few scenes were similar to the Golden Compass.
Excelent Movie! I saw it !
rlly want 2 c it! (: but parents wont drive mee! :'(
Seriously, news reporters NEED to check the facts before going live/print.
re: “Red Queen who plays crochet with a hedgehog”
Crochet, as you have the Queen “playing” is a fiber art form involving a tool called a hook and used with yarn.
Croquet is a game, played with a ball (of various colors depending upon # of players) and a mallet.
I watched the movie. The Red Queen did NOT play CROCHET. She played CROQUET. There is a difference!